The deforestation of the Amazon forest is progressing at an alarming rate. An area up to five times the size of New York City has been cut from the world’s largest rainforest, according to new analyzes. The increase in deforestation also contributes to the unusually high number of fires.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest hit a record high in the first six months of 2022, Reuters reported, citing government figures. The area that has already been deforested is five times the size of New York City.
It goes deeper and deeper
According to the Brazilian space research agency Inpe, 3,988 square kilometers of forest were cut in the region from January to June, an increase of 10.6 percent over the same months last year and the highest level of growth since the agency began collecting data in mid-2015. Deforestation rose by 5.5 percent to 1,120 square kilometers in June, also a record for that month.
The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, contains enormous amounts of carbon that is released as trees are destroyed, warming the atmosphere and fueling climate change, reminded Reuters.
Deforestation is sneaking deeper and deeper into the forest. In the first six months of the year, the state of Amazonas, located in the heart of the rainforest, saw for the first time more damage than any other state.
A Reuters witness last Friday saw several recently deforested areas off a road west of the Amazonas state capital, Manaus, where the lush jungle has been turned into spaces dotted with fallen, dead trees.
This year’s spike in deforestation also contributes to an unusually high number of fires, which are likely to worsen in the coming months, Manoela Machado, a fire and deforestation researcher at the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the University of Oxford, told Reuters. “If we have high levels of deforestation, it is inevitable that we will also have high levels of fires,” Machado said.
According to Inpe, Brazil saw its highest number of wildfires in the Amazon in 15 years in June, although that figure is only a small fraction of what is usually seen when elemental force peaks in August and September.
Usually, after valuable timber is cut down, farmers and businessmen start fires to clear the land for farming.
Experts in Brazil blame right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for disregarding environmental protection and for emboldening lumberjacks, ranchers and land profiteers who are cutting the Amazon for profit.
Environmentalists are counting on the left-wing candidate and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who oversaw a sharp decline in deforestation during his tenure in 2003-2010, to win the presidential election in October. A poll released this week showed Bolsonaro losing 19 percentage points to Lula.
Regardless, this year is likely to be marked by high levels of deforestation and wildfires as woodcutters and landowners seek to take advantage of poor law enforcement ahead of a potential government change, experts cited by Reuters say.
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